Strider Review

Strider is a slick and stylish Metroidvania experience that retains the core essence of the original game.

Release Date: February 18, 2014Developer: Double Helix GamesPublisher: CapcomPlatform: PS3 (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PCGenre: Platformer

Way back in the days before a little thing called Street Fighter II, Capcom found great success in an innovative arcade game known as Strider. Coming from the mind of game director Kouichi Yotsui, Strider followed the story of a band of high-tech ninja assassins who sought to infiltrate the capital of their futuristic and dystopian society and eliminate its evil ruler. The game was innovative arcade game for its time, and now Double Helix has taken the reigns to reinvent the world of Strider for modern game consoles. While the end result might be a little rough around the edges, there’s no denying the smoothness that manifests in some areas of the game.

The game itself starts off a little abruptly, with players thrown into the role of Strider Hiyru, as the trained assassin makes his way into the heart of Kazakh City to eliminate the villainous grandmaster Meio. Unless you’re a fan of the original arcade and NES game, you won’t really get much sense of the story at first, or what Strider’s actual goals are as he moves from location to location on an expansive and nostalgic world map. All you do know is that a lot of people want you dead, and bosses will make this known on the regular by shouting at you to die during the game’s many boss battles. The gaps in the story get filled in the more you progress with quick little cutscenes, although the animations are stiff and none of the characters move their mouths to speak (unless they’re wearing an incredibly rigid and realistic human face mask).

The difficulty in Strider could be described as being spotty at best, with several sections at the very beginning of the game being so frustratingly hard that I needed to put down my controller and walk away. But once you make it past those early moments and begin to upgrade your skills and abilities, then things become way more manageable. It certainly doesn’t help matters that the game is founded on a somewhat shaky checkpoint system. The screen will alert you when you’ve reached one of these “checkpoint” milestones, but it’s anyone’s guess if the game will actually let you start there after you’ve died. The only surefire way I’ve found of saving my progress is by entering the various health recharge rooms that you’ll run into.

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I’ll be honest though: I wasn’t sure I was going to like Strider at first. On the surface, there’s nothing really special about the overall experience, from the generic looking enemies, to hack-and-slash style combat, to the dark and gloomy city and its surrounding areas that all tend to blend into one another after a while. But once I stuck with it and really got a feel for how the game was meant to be played, Strider suddenly turned into an addictive and fast-paced take on the Metroidvania formula, with a neat verticality element as your assassin has the power to climb along most walls and ceilings.

It’s the gameplay itself in Strider that really allows the whole thing to shine, as those muddy and hazy environments quickly evolve to hide dozens of secrets in their intricate designs. Much like the old-school Castlevania and Metroid games, you’ll slowly gain different abilities that let you progress to new areas or better explore ones that you’ve already visited: things like a double jump, a power slide, and a powerful slam that lets you burst through fragile grates on the ground. You’ll also be able to upgrade your main weapon as well (the Cypher), in addition to boosting your overall health and energy meters, among other things.

Exploration is made all the more interesting by the fluid way that Strider moves, and it will often feel effortless to scale giant structures throughout the city in a flash. But while backtracking to find new items is certainly a big part of the fun, there’s also a lot to be said with regards to Strider’s boss battles, of which there are many, and of which really put the emphasis back on the combat. Truth be told, there’s not all that much to the combat system in the game: at least not at first. Taking down the bad guys is as simple as swiping your Cypher as furiously as you can, but the boss fights can be another story entirely. These moments slow down the fastness of the rest of the game to a nice effect, as you’ll need to take the time to learn and memorize your enemy’s movements before counter reacting: old-school game mechanics at their finest.

So in the end, Double Helix’s take on the iconic Strider franchise remains faithful to the original in nearly every way, while even improving on the presentation by tenfold and crafting a rewarding Metroidvania experience that could still stand on its own without the Strider name behind it. The game is also a very decent length for what it’s worth, and trying to achieve 100% completion by finding all of the upgrades and bonuses will extend that replay value even further. Depending on how much you lived and died by the original, you might be a little nitpicky about the spotty (and sometimes plain hard or easy) difficulty, in addition to the way the story and cutscenes have been handled. But in all other regards, the Strider revamp is a quick and stylish action experience with more rewards than regrets.

Pros and cons:

+ Fast-paced and rewarding Metroidvania gameplay+ Lots of great boss fights- Wavering and sometimes frustrating difficulty- Animations feel stiff at certain points

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Story: 7/10Graphics: 8/10Gameplay: 9/10Music: 8/10Replayability: 9/10

Our Rating: 8.2/10